China criticizes 'kill everyone' remark on U.S. talk show

BEIJING/LOS ANGELES Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:40pm EST

BEIJING/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A controversy over a child's remark on an American television talk show that jokingly advocated killing Chinese people to avoid paying down U.S. debt to that country continued to simmer three weeks after the event, as China on Monday sharply criticized the show's host.

Chinese-American groups staged a protest demonstration on Saturday outside the California headquarters of ABC, the broadcaster of the show, "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

The controversy blew up after a segment of the show that aired on October 16. Host Jimmy Kimmel, who often uses children on his show for comedic effect on adult issues, asked a group of four children during a non-scripted segment how the United States should pay back the $1.3 trillion it owes to China, the world's second-largest economy. A 6-year-old replied, "Kill everyone in China."

Kimmel replied: "That's an interesting idea."

Kimmel's show is pre-taped.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said ABC must respond to the Chinese-American community's protests.

"It's necessary to point out that spreading racism and hatred runs counter to the media's social responsibility," he told a regular news briefing.

ABC has issued a statement expressing regret for the incident, and Kimmel apologized on October 28 on his show.

ABC, which is owned by Walt Disney Co, on Saturday issued a statement in Chinese intended for China that apologized again for the segment and said it has added new quality controls.

"The simple fact is, the segment should never have been broadcast," ABC said in the statement. "Systems we have in place for these types of things did not function properly, and steps have been made to try and prevent this kind of egregious mistake from occurring in the future."

ABC's apologies have yet to temper outrage among Chinese-American groups, which held a demonstration against Kimmel and ABC outside the network's Burbank, California, headquarters on Saturday. The demonstration attracted 1,500 people, the Burbank Leader, a local newspaper, reported.

Critics say ABC should have cut the offending segment before it was aired. The network said it had no further comment after Saturday's statement.

(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing and Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles; Editing by Robert Birsel and Leslie Adler)